President's Message

Jessica Kronstadt
WLALA President 2020-2021

February 2021

Harriet Tubman said:  “Every great dream begins with a dreamer.  Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”  February marks Black History Month, a time to commemorate and reflect on remarkable Black trailblazers who have left enduring legacies.  Black History Month came about through the efforts of Carter G. Woodson, a pioneer in the study of African American history.  Disturbed that history textbooks largely ignored America’s Black population, in 1926, Dr. Woodson developed Negro History Week.  Dr. Woodson chose February for the celebration of Black History because February marks the birthdays of (1) abolitionist and civil rights leader Frederick Douglass, whose birthday is celebrated on February 14; and (2) President Abraham Lincoln, who was born on February 12.  In 1976, Negro History Week expanded into Black History Month.  Since then, to honor the achievements and the resilience of the Black community, every United States president has designated the month of February as Black History Month.  In 1976, President Gerald Ford said that Black History Month calls for all Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” 

In 2020 and 2021, several glass ceilings were shattered by Black Americans.  On January 20, 2021, Kamala Devi Harris became the first woman, first Black person, and first South Asian American to become Vice President of the United States.  That same day, Amanda Gorman –who is 22-years-old – became the youngest inaugural poet in United States history.  On January 5, 2021, Reverend Raphael Warnock became Georgia’s first Black senator.  Former Georgia House of Representatives Member and Nobel Prize Nominee Stacey Abrams played a crucial role in Senator Warnock’s successful election.[1]  On January 26, 2021, the Washington Football Team named Jennifer King its assistant running backs coach, making her the first full-time Black female coach in National Football League (NFL) history.[2]  Since 2020, Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, a viral immunologist, has served as the lead scientist on the team that developed the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine.  In March 2021, Rosalind Brewer, who currently serves as Starbucks’ chief operating officer, will become CEO of drugstore chain Walgreens Boots Alliance.  When she steps into this new role, she will be the only Black woman currently leading a Fortune 500 company.

This February, I was honored and humbled to interview Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles (WLALA) Past Presidents Greer Bosworth and Dominique Shelton Leipzig, Black Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles, Inc. (BWL) Past President Amber Finch and current BWL President Michelle Kazadi.  These women are tremendous leaders, they have shattered glass ceilings and they continue to have a far-reaching impact on the Los Angeles legal community. 


[1] You can read about Senator Warnock and Ms. Abrams in Ariella Thal-Simonds’ article, also featured in this month’s newsletter.

[2] In August 2020, Jason Wright became president of the Washington Football Team, making him the first-ever Black president of an NFL team. At 38, Mr. Wright is also currently the youngest president of an NFL team.

Greer Bosworth

Greer Bosworth is currently Assistant General Counsel of Meggitt-USA, Inc., a United States corporate subsidiary of Meggitt PLC, a United Kingdom-based company, which specializes in extreme environment technologies in highly regulated markets for aerospace, energy and equipment and defense.  She oversees the Company’s intellectual property assets worldwide and is responsible for contract drafting and negotiation, managing outside litigation counsel and general corporate matters. Beginning the practice of law as a litigation associate at Bryan Cave in 1990, Ms. Bosworth has been in-house counsel for several entertainment and technology companies including MGM, Spelling Entertainment, Movielink and AltaVista Company.  She was a law clerk for the Honorable A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr. while he was Chief Judge of the Third Circuit Court of Appeal and is a graduate of Stanford Law School.  In addition to being Past President of WLALA, Ms. Bosworth has served on the Boards of BWL, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and the Breath of Life Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Dominique Shelton Leipzig

Dominique Shelton Leipzig is a Partner and Firmwide Co-Chair of the Ad Tech Privacy & Data Management Practice at Perkins Coie.  Ms. Shelton Leipzig is a leader in digital transformation strategies used by Fortune 100 companies and start-ups across a wide variety of industries including technology, retail, healthcare, and finance.  In her role at Perkins Coie, she guides global organizations through the fourth industrial revolution. This requires involvement in all key aspects of a business including: product development, future planning, compliance, M&A, and partnerships. In her landmark book – Transform: Data as a Pre-tangible Asset for a Post-Data World: The Leader’s Playbook – Ms. Shelton Leipzig pioneered a six-step approach for responsible data management.  She has authored two editions of her book titled: Implementing the CCPA: A Global Guide for Business, declared as “definitive reading” by the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP).  Prior to joining Perkins Coie, Ms. Shelton Leipzig worked in a variety of roles in the areas of privacy, cybersecurity, IP digital technology, antitrust, unfair competition, consumer protection and others.  Ms. Shelton Leipzig is based in Los Angeles. Her experience is global. She is fluent in French and she has led engagements in Senegal, Kenya, South Africa, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, and Israel. She is ranked by Chambers & Partners in privacy & data security. She is on the Executive Committee and Board of Directors of the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) – the largest global privacy association of its kind.

Amber Finch

Amber S. Finch is a Partner in the Insurance and Risk Management Practice at Reed Smith, LLP.  She has quickly become a go-to lawyer for creating effective risk management solutions. With her litigation background, she has helped her commercial policyholder clients recover hundreds of millions of dollars in insurance proceeds.  Ms. Finch represents a litany of clients from start-up businesses to middle market and Fortune 500.  She helps companies manage risk by negotiating broader insurance coverage on the front end, negotiating insurance and indemnity provisions in deal contracts, assisting with tender and collection on insurance and indemnity claims, and litigating insurance and indemnity disputes.  Ms. Finch has significant experience in standard first party and third-party insurance policies, as well as specialty policies, emerging industries and disruptive technologies.  Most recently, she has provided risk analysis and mitigation advice and counsel to several companies faced with actual and potential economic losses arising out of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Michelle Kazadi

Michelle L. Kazadi is a Certified Family Law Specialist in private practice, based in Marina Del Rey, where she handles all aspects of family law disputes including dissolution of marriage, child custody and visitation, division of assets and debts and support issues.  Ms. Kazadi is the current President of BWL, and also serves on the Family Law Executive Committee of the California Lawyers Association (CLA) as well as the Access to Justice Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association (LACBA).  In addition to professional organizations, Ms. Kazadi has also served on various community-based boards and enjoys providing pro bono services to clients who otherwise could not afford representation.  Ms. Kazadi is also an adjunct professor of Law and Paralegal Studies at West Los Angeles College.

When did you know that you wanted to become a lawyer?  What or who inspired you?

Ms. Bosworth – I grew up in the 1960s and loved the “Perry Mason” TV series with Raymond Burr.  I thought I wanted to be a litigator, but decided against it when I finally went to law school.

Ms. Finch – Throughout my childhood, I knew I wanted to become a lawyer.  Although nobody in my family practiced law, I had always been drawn to the idea of being in court, arguing for a position in which I believed and to promoting and obtaining justice.  That passion for law stuck with me throughout college and throughout law school and it is the number one reason why I continue to practice today.  My advice to anyone considering a career in the law is that if being a lawyer is what you want to do, do not let anyone tell you that you cannot and do not let anyone tell you that you have to choose between being a lawyer and pursuing another dream that you may have.

When did you get involved in Bar leadership?

Ms. Bosworth – Almost immediately after I started practicing law in the 1990s, I was appointed Counsel on the Christopher Commission.  There, I was assigned to obtain input from minority bar associations including BWL, the John M. Langston Bar Association and the Mexican American Bar Association regarding their thoughts of the Los Angeles Police Department’s use of excessive force against Rodney King.  That was my first introduction to BWL.  After those discussions with E. Jean Gary, the 15th President of BWL, I knew then that I had an obligation to become active in the organization.  I was a high school student in Baltimore during the riots of the 1960s after the death of Dr. Martin Luther King.  I remember how painful that was for me, my family and friends. The LAPD’s use of excessive force against Rodney King reminded me of that pain and it was almost unbearable.

I remember crying while watching that Rodney King video.  It was a reminder of how far we still had to go for Black Americans to be respected and recognized as just as important as others. The many recorded killings in the United States including those of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Botham Jean, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, on and on and on… these killings by White people, and especially by police are yet a constant reminder of just how painful it is to live as a Black person in the United States.

This pain was further exacerbated when I saw how differently law enforcement treated the domestic terrorists who violently forced an insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

What thoughts come to your mind when you hear “Black History Month”?

Ms. Bosworth – It is hurtful that we still have to set aside a special time to celebrate the successes of Black Americans.  If we were truly a society that recognized and respected the contributions of all of its citizens, we would celebrate the success of Black people, Latino and Latina people, Native Americans, women etc., every day and there would not be a need to set a time a specific time to celebrate each group that has historically and continues to be underrepresented.

Ms. Finch – Condensing the achievements of Black Americans into one month is insufficient, especially given that February is the shortest month of the year.  2020 was really Black History Year as it truly exposed the day-to-day experience many Black Americans face.

Ms. Shelton Leipzig – Black History is multifaceted and rich. It must be woven into course curricula, starting in elementary school, so that it may truly permeate society.  It is concerning that, after decades of struggle, systemic racism continues to plague our society today.  I am hopeful that with intentionality and focus, we can move beyond this issue once and for all.

Ms. Kazadi – We cannot teach the experience of Black Americans in only one month.  During Black History Month, we focus almost entirely on the struggle of Black Americans and highlight the accomplishments of so few.  However, the African diaspora is so much more than that.  Black American culture is rich with influences from Africa, Haiti, Panama, Brazil, etc.  All of these cultures are a part of who we are, what we eat, how we dress and express ourselves.  I am the first generation African American in my family.  My father was born and raised in the Democratic Republic of Congo and came to the United States for his education.  My mother’s family immigrated to this country from Sicily.  Growing up in the United States and experiencing Black History Month, I always felt a little detached from the African American experience that is told in textbooks and on screen.  We are told as children that our people were inferior and stupid, and this is why we were captured and forced into slavery and then at some point we overcame.  I do not connect with that narrative – I never have.  Slavery is not where our story started, yet it is the only story that is taught to us.  It was not until I attended Howard University that I came to understand that there are multiple ways to walk through this country as a person of color.  We do not all fit neatly into the same box of experiences that are portrayed in the mainstream media.  We do not all come from the same country of origin or experience the same upbringing.  We do, however, share the same pain of being marginalized and disproportionately negatively impacted in certain areas of our society.  This is the pain that binds every person of color, but we are more than just our pain.  We are descendants of Kings and Queens and our people are leaders of nations.  The fact that we in the United States have only had one African American President and one Black female Vice President in our history is an anomaly in relationship to the rest of the world.  If you relegate the entire history of a people to one month per year it will take generations to tell the full story.

What challenges have you faced as a Black woman leader in the law? 

Ms. Shelton Leipzig – Less than 1% of equity partners in AmLaw 50 law firms are Black Women. This number has actually decreased since 1991, when I started practicing.  As American Bar Association (ABA) studies like Visible Invisibility (2006) and Left Out and Left Behind: The Hurdles, Hassles, and Heartaches of Achieving Long-Term Legal Careers for Women of Color (2020) demonstrate, there is nearly 100 percent turnover for Black women in law firms.  We should ask ourselves:  Why is this the case?  These reports detail stories of persistent stereotyping and unfair treatment of women of color, and Black women lawyers in particular.   As for me and the development of career, I can say that strong family support, hard work, perseverance have been key.  Along the way, I have encountered challenges but also met special people that have inspired me to pursue my career goals.  My message to young women of color is this:  Believe in yourself and build your support network inside of (and outside of) your work environment.  Do not worry if others cannot see you as you see yourself.  Your personal vision is what really counts!

Ms. Bosworth – I worked for ten years before going to law school.  When I started law school and my career as a lawyer, I was already successful, strong and understood what I was capable of doing.  Racism certainly surrounded me, but because of my experience, I felt as though it bypassed me.  I never thought about seeking out a mentor – I worked with Sally Suchil and she had a meaningful impact on my career.  I never found a mentor in the law firm context except during my federal clerkship.  Unfortunately, Judge Higginbotham passed away in 1998, while I was still very junior in my career.  I just did my job, and when it became clear that I was not going to progress in a particular environment, I moved on.  Still, not having a mentor was a misstep and, at that time, I did not know any better.  Having a mentor really is critical especially in the legal profession.

How did you get involved in bar association work?

Ms. Bosworth – After working on the Christopher Commission, I started attending BWL meetings, was welcomed by all and easily became engaged and involved.  I served as Co-Chair of BWL’s Scholarship Committee and participated in numerous fundraising activities.  Later I met Sally Suchil at a step class in a Santa Monica club, and was encouraged to join WLALA.

Describe your experience as President of WLALA.

Ms. Bosworth – It was invigorating and encouraging.  I was supported by past presidents of WLALA, other bar association leaders and leaders in the legal community who turned up in full force for my installation dinner and who supported me during my presidency.  There is a photo of my then 8-year-old niece, Alexandra, and former District Attorney Gil Garcetti (father of Eric Garcetti, current Mayor of Los Angeles) that my sister proudly displays at her home in Baltimore.  My niece, now 31-years-old, still remembers that day.  She was so excited for me, which reminds me of the excitement young girls felt upon seeing the inauguration of Madame Vice President Kamala Devi Harris on January 20, 2021.  Although I was not sworn in as Vice President of the United States, to my young niece it was just as important for her to watch as Judge Candace Cooper installed me as President of WLALA.  More Black girls need to see women who look like I do and like they do in all leadership positions in order to believe that they, too, can achieve whatever success they strive for and not be held back just because of their blackness.

Ms. Shelton Leipzig – My presidency was the culmination of a 10-year commitment to WLALA that started in 1995 when Ms. Greer Bosworth invited me to serve as the Conference of Delegates committee chair.  When I became president of WLALA in 2005, I was delighted to focus on an agenda built around women helping women in their careers. We developed a culture of support of women in their careers through targeted programming and initiatives.  Today, WLALA has remarkable leaders like Jessica Kronstadt and the entire 2020-2021 Executive Committee that have taken as a priority Racial Justice and Equality.  This is good for society and WLALA.

What has serving as President of BWL meant to you personally and professionally?

Ms. Kazadi – Being President of BWL is an honor that I do not take lightly. I am the 46th President of an organization that was co-founded by the first African American female judge in California, Justice Vaino Spencer.  It is always at the forefront of my mind that her inspiration and idea to create a support organization for African American women in the legal profession is not only still in existence today, but it has expanded in its importance to the communities that we serve.  I consider myself a public servant.  Even though I own a private law practice and I am in business for myself, my joy comes from being able to help others less fortunate.  BWL has provided me with the platform to do just that through our monthly giving to grassroots organizations that directly serve the community, to being able to organize clothing and food drives, and by launching our new Pro Bono Initiative.  I also enjoy being able to carry on the legacy of our founders by mentoring young attorneys and law students and by providing networking and continuing legal education opportunities for our members, even in this era of Covid-19.  I have not had a moment to sit down and think about what BWL means to me professionally because I have been so laser focused on doing the job at hand.  Let’s revisit that question in October 2021, when my term is up.  J

How has racism and/or sexism affected your professional and personal life?

Ms. Bosworth – Personally, it makes me frustrated, but I try to ignore it except if there is a legal component or when it happens in commercial settings (e.g., stores) and then I will speak out.

Ms. Finch – I have experienced racism professionally and personally.  When I was at a mediation, the mediator asked me to talk to opposing counsel and opposing counsel’s client.  The client assumed that I was the receptionist.  A Black woman in a suit is still assumed not to be a lawyer.  Another time, I was at a conference in Miami.  There was a break in the conference, and I went to the swimming pool area in my suit (not a bathing suit) to take a phone call.  A groundskeeper asked me whether I had a keycard for the hotel.  When I told him that I did have a card, and that – according to the signs throughout the hotel – anyone who wanted to access the pool was required to have a keycard, he asked to see my keycard.  I asked him whether he had asked anyone else who was sitting at the pool at that time to show him his or her keycard.  It was clear that he had not.  Then, he backed off.

I am not always wearing a suit and do not wear my credentials on my sleeve.  As a Black woman, people assume that I am the help.  The constant need to wear my resume on my sleeve takes a toll.  I firmly believe that you have to correct people – in a diplomatic way – when they make incorrect presumptions.  More often than not, those presumptions are based upon how someone looks and not on what that person has said. I also believe that the people who make those assumptions are not always purely racist – they just lack knowledge.

I have four children. Teaching my children how to live as a Black woman or man in America is teaching them how to protect their lives.

What are your proudest accomplishments?

Ms. Bosworth – My proudest moments have been:  My graduation from Stanford Law School, becoming an NAACP LDF Constance Baker Motley Scholarship recipient, co-authoring an article in the Harvard Civil Rights Civil Liberties Law Review entitled “Rather than the Free: Free Blacks in Colonial and Antebellum Virginia,” clerking for the Honorable A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., Chief Judge, US. Court of Appeal for the Third Circuit and being sworn into the California Bar Association and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals by Judge Higginbotham, Jr.  These were my proudest moments because I was able to share each of them with my parents, Pendleton and Gilda Bosworth who both passed away in 1991 after I moved to Los Angeles to start practicing law.  I often think about a line in the movie “Mahogany” when Billy Dee Williams said to Diana Ross:  “Success means nothing unless you have someone to share it with.”  Most of my proudest moments occurred when I shared them with my family.

In 1997, I was sworn in as WLALA’s first Black President.  This was important because my twin sister and niece shared in the moment.

Ms. Finch –  Becoming a partner at Reed Smith LLP, a global law firm, as a Black woman is one of my proudest accomplishments.  Serving as President of BWL has also been one of my proudest accomplishments.  It is not easy to come this far.  Being a Black woman at a major law firm is not something that you see at every firm and it is not something that happens every day so there are a lot of people out there who are rooting for you with every climb and you are taking them with you.

Ms. Shelton Leipzig – Passing the bar in 1991.  Making partner in 2001.  Becoming WLALA’s president in 2005.  The publication of my three books (2019-2021).  Being appointed to the Executive Committee of the IAPP Board of Directors this year.  Helping other women achieve their career goals!

Recently the conversation within many law firms, companies and within WLALA has been about belonging, equity and inclusion.  How do you think these conversations could have an impact on the legal profession, for example, by potentially increasing the number of Black women and other underrepresented groups within firms, organizations and bar associations?

Ms. Bosworth – While conversations are important, actions speak louder than words.  All organizations, including law firms, whether in corporate America or in government, need to demonstrate their commitment to equal opportunity.  It is well past the time for talk and conversations. We need to see actions that speak truth to power that Black Lives Matter.

Ms. Shelton Leipzig – The number of Black women holding positions as partners of law firms and in C-Suite positions has gone down.  We need to take steps as a profession to ensure there are opportunities for growth for women of color.  Within law firms, providing effective support to Black women in the early stages of their careers is important.  Once they become partners or senior leaders, institutions should support their leadership.

Ms. Kazadi – I appreciate the focus on diversity and inclusion by large organizations and law firms. These discussions are long overdue, as many qualified African American candidates have been overlooked for hiring and promotion.  As a solo practitioner, I view the issue from a slightly different lens.  I personally do not desire to become a partner at large family law firm; however, I would like to see the playing field leveled with respect to which professionals are deemed the “experts” in our respective practice areas.  I think about the numerous MCLE seminars that I have attended over the years and I can only recall one African American female attorney on stage as a participant in a mock hearing scenario.  I have yet to go to a seminar, which attendees pay thousands of dollars to attend, and see an African American woman present on a substantive issue in family law.  Unfortunately, I am still able to count on my hands the number of African American people in a seminar ballroom with over 300 attendees.  I also do not see articles written by African American women in well-respected periodicals and newsletters.  It is discouraging, to say the least, but what can we do about it.  I think it will take a conscious effort on the part of the “powers that be” to engage a diverse group of people to make presentations and teach seminars.  Not just to invite these people to present, but actively to mentor them with their presentations or invite them to co-write scholarly articles and really take an interest in helping to position them as leaders and experts in the field.  It should be noted that for many people of color, they are the first in their family in their positions and they do not have the benefit of generations of connections and guidance about how to navigate through the profession. If we, as women across all ethnicities, can relate to hearing that little voice inside telling us we are not good enough, just imagine how much louder that voice is to a woman of color who is routinely underrepresented in places of influence and power.  Let’s not just invite people to the table, let’s make sure they succeed.

Kamala Harris shattered glass ceilings when she became Vice President.  What does this accomplishment mean to you?

Ms. Bosworth – Vice President Harris’ experience is vastly different from President Obama’s experience.  She is a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated (AKA), she is a Howard University graduate and she will carry these experiences with her through her Vice Presidency.  I hope that with the success of Vice President Harris, we continue to see diverse representation in Congress, state and local representation and in the judiciary.

Ms. Shelton Leipzig – I have always supported Vice President Harris.  I recall the Black Women Lawyers Association of Northern California meeting where I wrote my first check in support of her campaign for District Attorney.  I have supported every campaign thereafter.   I am thrilled  to see Vice President Harris excel in her new role.  It is a transformative moment for women of color.  It is a testament to Howard University’s excellence as an institution to see Vice President Harris and Former Georgia House of Representatives Member Abrams in their roles as leaders.  We still have a long way to go to achieve equity in this country.  With determination, grit and optimism, I believe we can work toward achieving a strong and equitable future for WLALA and society.

Ms. Kazadi – I am beyond excited about Vice President Harris for a number of reasons.  First, not only am I a very proud graduate of Howard University, but Vice President Harris and I are also members of the same sorority:  AKA.  Her accomplishments mean that there is someone who is just steps away from becoming President, a president that understands me and others who have shared similar paths and experiences.  Vice President Harris is reflective of the diversity of the African diaspora that I referred to earlier, being of Jamaican and South Asian descent.  She has also been indoctrinated with the importance of public service from both Howard University and AKA.  Her accomplishments also take a step in the right direction of normalizing Black excellence.  


Serena Williams – who knows a thing or two about shattering glass ceilings – said:  “The success of every woman should be the inspiration to another.  We should raise each other up.” Thank you, Greer, Dominique, Amber and Michelle, for continuing to inspire and raise others up with you.  Thank you for showing us what it means to Lead Like a Girl.